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Bleak buildings, lots of asphalt: that is the image that usually comes to mind when people think of an industrial estate. But Tilburg will turn that perception around in the coming years. The day before yesterday, the signing of the Loven area manifesto took place: an important step towards a future in which companies thrive on a green site, criss-crossed with footpaths.

  • Loven will undergo a major transformation in the coming years.
  • The business park will become greener, more sustainable and more innovative.
  • The municipality and the business community are working together to make this happen.

In Tilburg, entrepreneurs need more space. The city wants to leave the valuable countryside undeveloped, and that means that urban space needs to be organised differently.

Industrial estate Loven will undergo a major transformation in the coming years; the day before yesterday, the municipality of Tilburg and the entrepreneurs’ association Vitaal Loven signed the manifesto. This describes the plans and ten ambitions for the spatial and economic development of the area into a future-proof location. The ambitions range from efficient use of space to leading the way on circularity. Unusually, this manifesto is a collaboration between the municipality, Vitaal, the association for optimal park management and a vital business park and the current ‘residents’ of the area, the entrepreneurs.

Eric Saras, strategist at the Economy & Labour Market Department within the municipality, is delighted. “It is very important that entrepreneurs in our city are given enough space. At the same time, we want to ensure a pleasant working environment. This becomes all the more important given the shortage of workers in many sectors. We are committed to accessibility and sustainability. We prepare for the circular economy and we create space for growth. In this way, we make the site more attractive for current and new companies.”

Transforming the site is anything but an easy task. Several interests converge on a modest piece of land. “The business park is in a great location, along the canal, near the railway and the road. But how can we best use this space? Entrepreneurs have a desire to expand. At the same time, all kinds of social issues play a role,” says urban planner Bram van Duuren. He too was involved in drawing up the plans. “Climate adaptation, sustainable mobility, the energy transition: all elements must come together in harmony on the site.” The municipality is now going to ensure this together with the business community.

A sustainable bakery

Efforts to revitalise business parks in Tilburg have been ongoing for some time. For example, through the Green Deal, through which the municipality works with businesses to see what (cost-saving) sustainability measures can be taken. For example, Bakery Floor van Lieshout, located on Loven, has already taken several steps with support from this programme. Some of these initiatives include the installation of solar panels on the roof, the use of heat recovery systems for cooling and freezing equipment, the switch from gas boilers to electric boilers for the ovens, the sharing of residual heat with other entrepreneurs, and the installation of charging stations for its own staff.”

Walking along the water

The details of the action plan are yet to be worked out. However, a rough outline is already on paper. The starting point: ten ambitions, one of which is to develop safe and attractive lunch routes. At present, pedestrians are made to feel very awkward. They are forced to walk on the verge. “In the short term, we therefore want to create attractive, safe lunch routes that employees can use during their breaks,” says Van Duuren. These will partly run along the waterfront. Entrepreneurs contribute to the quality of the routes by greening their facades and ‘front gardens’.

Aeres Hogeschool, Almere – Impression of how the buildings at Loven also might look like in the future. © Gerard van Beek

Shuttle buses and clean energy

Business association Vitaal Loven has already helped many entrepreneurs in the business park to become more sustainable in recent years, partly thanks to their involvement in the Green Deal. Now they will take follow-up steps to take greening in the area to the next level. For instance, as part of the manifesto, the association is exploring support for a shuttle bus between Tilburg station and Loven and is working on an Energy Master Plan. This will define scenarios and concrete measures to become energy-neutral by 2045.

The association will also research hydrogen and sustainable heat sources. Roland Verbraak, chairman of the association and also employed by Multi Model Container Solutions: “We are going to see if we can get a branch on the hydrogen pipeline that runs from Rotterdam to Chemelot. We could build a hydrogen station on the industrial estate, where both trucks and passenger cars can refuel. We are also starting a study into geothermal heat. With this, we can heat buildings on the site, but we can also supply heat to other parts of the city, for example.”

Innovation and digitisation

Loven not only focuses on sustainability, but also embraces innovation and digitalisation as core values for success in a rapidly changing world. Thus, entrepreneurs and Vitaal Loven join forces to attract young talent. They share internships and open days of (regional) schools centrally, for instance through Entrepreneurial Tilburg. Leveraging local talent will strengthen the regional economy, both nationally and internationally. Efforts are also being made to strengthen mutual cooperation between companies in the field of digitalisation.

Continue to grow

This is just a selection of the plans in the pipeline. Erkan De Morée is positive about the transformation. He is Managing Director of MOL Logistics: a major player in the industrial area. “We are expected to continue growing as a company in the coming years. To attract new staff, greening Loven is essential.” Among other things, the entrepreneur is looking forward to new footpaths that will make the area more attractive. “Our staff now often take the car during breaks to drive towards a green area for a walk. That is something we want to avoid in the future.” The flow of freight traffic, and the greening of residential traffic through lighted cycle paths or shared transport, are also key issues.

It does not stop at plans on paper

The signing of the manifesto marks the kick-off. Now the real work can begin. In order to realise the ten ambitions from now on, the parties will continue jointly with the Futureproof Loven project group. This will determine the order in which the actions will be taken up. Vital Loven and the municipality will both make capacity and financial resources available, with Vital Loven taking the lead in gathering the parties needed to implement the priority actions, supported by the municipality if necessary. Every quarter, the project group publishes an update on the implementation of the actions from the manifesto and every two years they evaluate the progress and new priority actions to be implemented are proposed by the project group.

Saras stresses, “What makes this approach so valuable is the close cooperation of entrepreneurs and the municipality. Together, we have defined what we want to work on. I am therefore convinced that we will start seeing changes in the streetscape in the time to come, that it is not limited to nice plans on paper.”


This story is the result of a collaboration between Make it in Tilburg and our editorial team. Innovation Origins is an independent journalism platform that carefully chooses its partners and only cooperates with companies and institutions that share our mission: spreading the story of innovation. This way we can offer our readers valuable stories that are created according to journalistic guidelines. Want to know more about how Innovation Origins works with other companies? Click here